Today we come to the end of Nehemiah and to the end of the historical narratives. We have watched God’s covenant promises unfold to His people from the parting of the Red Sea, to the fall of Jericho, to the rise of David and the fall of the nation… We have seen God preserve a remnant out of the exiles in Babylon and read as they returned to first rebuild the temple and then repair the wall around Jerusalem.
In Nehemiah 12 we read of the people celebrating the completion of the wall. There was much joy in Jerusalem (Neh. 12:43)!
But as soon as Nehemiah left (to attend to the Persian king), everything fell apart. Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to find that the people did not provide for the Levites, so the Levites had left the temple to work their land. One of the priests had let Nehemiah’s enemy, Tobiah, stay in one of the temple’s chambers. The people were buying and selling in Jerusalem each Sabbath, and worst of all, they were intermarrying with foreign women.
Nehemiah did his best to make things right. But you have to believe that even Nehemiah’s best wasn’t good enough to overcome the people’s sin nature. They needed a Savior – not a political savior – but a savior to change their hearts – to give them a heart of flesh – so as to change them from the inside out!
This is the gospel – that God sent his Son to satisfy the law on our behalf. As we trust in him for our salvation, His Spirit enters and regenerates our hearts. This is the beautiful mystery. This is the gospel!
And it is this gospel that Paul is so fiercely defending in 2 Corinthians 11. For false teachers had infiltrated the church and were turning his flock away from the true gospel. Paul was forced to boast in his qualifications to persuade the Corinthians to not be deceived by the false teachers in their midst.
Ironically, Paul boasts in his weakness as proof of his apostleship! This is the beauty of the gospel!!! We come to God as weak sinners in desperate need to be saved. We come to him as law-breakers and he receives us, and forgives us and breathes His life into our dry bones. We can boast in our weakness, for when we are weak, He can be strong through us.
Poor Nehemiah was fighting an impossible battle. The people would spiral away from the law eventually. It was inevitable…but God had a plan! And it was a gospel plan!!